By Karthik Parimal
There is merit in giving a player an extended run as it eliminates the pressure of having to play with the guillotine around their neck, but the results have not always been fruitful – Rohit Sharma being a case in point. He has been given the kind of long rope that not many players around the world are fortunate enough to receive. The failures kept worsening and he sank deeper in misery in the recently-concluded One-Day International (ODI) series against Sri Lanka - 13 runs in his last five games says it all.
It’s not wrong to place lofty expectations on someone who has promised so much with his performances at the domestic level. Like I mentioned in one of my earlier articles, Rohit averages almost 60 in First-class cricket. However, with every ODI game that he has played, the levels of expectations have been falling. India is fortunate enough to have prolific batsmen in the overs-limit format which has allowed the selectors and team management show leniency shown towards Rohit. But quite clearly his extended run of failures puts his immediate future in risk.
A closer look at Rohit’s last 15 ODI innings reveals his steady decline. During the final stages of the West Indies’ tour of India, and also during the majority of the Commonwealth Bank (CB) series, Rohit got starts on numerous occasions but failed to convert them into big scores. His innings of 68 against Pakistan during the Asia Cup is perhaps the only bright spot since then. Before the series against Sri Lanka began, Rohit had scored just 199 runs from his last 10 innings at a paltry average of just 19.9. Thereafter, things went from bad to worse for him.
As mentioned earlier, Rohit managed to score just 13 runs from his five innings in the tournament. Throughout the series, he was either bowled or dismissed leg before wicket. Clearly, there’s an issue here. He was sent packing twice by Angelo Mathews, twice by Nuwan Pradeep and once by Lasith Malinga. Except during the second ODI - where he was guilty of playing a lazy shot, chopping the ball back onto his stumps, Rohit was dismissed on the rest of the occasions while trying to work the ball towards the mid-wicket region, irrespective of where the ball had pitched or was travelling.
In the first ODI, the ball landed on the off and appeared to be marginally swinging in, when it went on to shatter the stumps as Rohit looked to play it on the leg side. In the third, fourth and fifth ODIs, he had to make the long walk back to pavilion after he tried to play the yorkers and the length balls to the leg side, regardless of the movement or where they had landed. Those balls either went on to disturb the timber or trapped him right in front of the stumps. He has done well to get rid of the technical flaws in his batting in the past, but the fact that he’s now looking to play across the line more often than not is letting him down. And it is a cause for concern.
Rahul Dravid was faced with a similar predicament during the tour of Australia a few months ago, but he kept denying that there was any technical glitch. Eventually, he bowed out. But Rohit is someone with age on his side and has all the time in the world to address any impending issues. Stalwarts like Sachin Tendulkar don’t often shower praises on every other cricketer, but the fact that the maestro opined that Rohit was one of the good things to have happened to Indian cricket clearly speaks volumes for Rohit’s talent. However, talent alone cannot justify a place in the side.
Rohit needs to take a good, hard look at himself and chalk out a modus operandi to prove his worth in the side. He has to get back to the drawing board with his mentors and iron out the chinks in his armoury. Domestic cricket should help him regain his lost confidence. Until then, it’s time other promising youngsters like Manoj Tiwary and Ajinkya Rahane are given a good run and the opportunity to cement their respective places in the national side. Tiwary has grabbed the chances presented to him in Sri Lanka with both hands and Rahane should be given a fair run too.
(If cricket is a religion and has many devotees, Karthik Parimal would be a primary worshipper. His zeal for writing and love for the sport of cricket is what has brought him here. Karthik can also be followed on Twitter)